Arrested Development Returns

NOTE: This is largely spoiler-free, but I do allude to some situations. It might also be clearer if you have seen the show. Proceed at your own risk.

Arrested Development 2013
Sunday May 26th marked the return of Arrested Development, and I, like many others, have spent the last two days getting reacquainted with the Bluth family. While watching I came to the discomforting realization that I sort of wish they hadn’t returned. Here are a few of my thoughts regarding “Season 4” of Arrested Development.

To begin with, there were many, many positives throughout the 15 episodes. It was obvious watching that the cast was delighted to be back working together again. The timing, chemistry and comfort of the actors was apparent onscreen. It is great to watch people enjoying what they are doing, instead of working for a paycheque, and this certainly looked to be the case. The writing was still strong. There were many funny lines and situations throughout the series. The trademark wit was still there, the memorable catchphrases (You’re a hot mess! and ANUSTART come to mind) and inspired lunacy was on display. I laughed, and enjoyed myself, but after awhile I stared to see some weaknesses.

I should preface this by saying I did not have unrealistic expectations going in. I enjoyed the first two seasons immensely, but I found the third season to be weak in comparison. I also thought that it resolved the story enough that I was left feeling satisfied, and did not need a continuation of the story. When it was “renewed” by Netflix I was curious and hopeful, but I was not expecting the second coming of Christ. I was just hoping it would be as entertaining as the earlier seasons, and perhaps the creative team would come back refreshed with a lot of great new ideas. This was not entirely the case.

One of the biggest problems I had with the show was one of the things I was most excited to see. The season was not in sequential order. Instead each episode was about a specific character, so the viewer would see the story for different perspectives. While this concept is not wholly original, it was quite a technically impressive feat, juggling multiple storylines across several characters, each adding a little bit to the puzzle that is the complete plot. I was excited and intrigued by how this would play out (indeed, the creator originally wanted to have the show be view-able in any order, each episode totally standalone, but was unable to do this to his satisfaction), but was underwhelmed with the result. Too often, especially nearing the final episodes of the series, I found myself feeling like I was watching retreads of the scenes. Sure, a small amount of information would come out, but often I felt as though I was watching the same scene again, with Ron Howard’s ceaseless narration filling in holes or reminding us of what had happened in the scene previously. It became exhausting and frustrating after awhile, and pulled me out of the story instead of pulling me further in. It also felt disjointed, certain characters would disappear for long stretches, and any narrative momentum in their story arc would be lost. I thought the story would feel much fresher if they were presented in such a way that the climax took place during the Cinco de Quatro celebrations. The way it was presented I didn’t think there was any climax, just a lot of stuff happening, most of it unresolved.

That was another issue I had with the series. As I mentioned, I thought the finale of season three wrapped up the storylines quite well. The 15th episode of season four left virtually every character in some form of jeopardy or unresolved situation. Indeed, it takes it to the extreme, cutting off mid scene between Michael and his son George Micheal. I understand the cliffhanger is a trope, used for years in storytelling, but to me it felt like a cheat. They had ample time to tell the stories they wanted to tell (each episode is about 30 minutes long), but instead they threw so many balls up in the air to juggle, and then left each and every one hanging. There is still no confirmation of another series or movie, so this move just appears calculated to cause a public outcry, to insist that there must be more to come. A canny strategy, to be sure, but deeply unsatisfying storytelling.

This is just my two cents. I would love to hear what you thought of the series, or if you are even going to bother watching it.

Edward G. Talbot is rocking the shorts

Ebook shorts, that is! This Mayday, May 1, 2010, Edward G. Talbot is releasing two ebook collections of short stories. A Funny Pair of Shorts contains three humorous shorts, while  A Horrifying Pair Of Shorts has three horror stories. Each set is only 99 cents!

Being the upstanding writer-type he is, you can read a sample of the stories, so you know what you are getting into.

For all of the details, including a groovy contest, go to Edward G. Talbot’s site right now!

New Music From the Hold Steady

Anyone who knows me, or who has read Lost Gods, knows how important The Hold Steady is to me. I am pretty sure they are the best band making music right now, and I often (or always) listen to them when I am writing.

In Lost Gods, Coyote takes Anansi to a Hold Steady show. That concert experience was lifted from my own expereince seeing the band at the Opera House here in Toronto a few years back:

The lights went down, and the curtains opened, revealing a somewhat motley looking group of musicians in standard rock and roll formation. Drums, keyboard, lead and bass guitar, fronted by a wildly enthusiastic front man. They launched into their first song, a story of booze soaked love and redemption that managed to avoid being cliché, and the crowd exploded. Coyote’s eyes were shining as he looked at the stage, wide with wonder and delight.

“Let’s go down,” he shouted. We swept down the stairs, and immediately felt the wall of heat from the crowd. Coyote, with a carnivore’s instinct for sneaking around unnoticed, lead us in a winding path through the packed bodies, until we were directly in the middle of them. We settled in behind two large indie kids, their shoulders making an inverted proscenium arch through which I had the perfect view of the stage. Song after song, the band played, drank, and communed with their audience. The subject material was dark; people living on the fringes of life, with a tenuous grasp on reality. I could relate. What was amazing is that no matter how dark the song, no matter how bleak the lives of the characters, the singer was so enthusiastic, so happy. The show was like a perfect distillation of joy, for all to indulge in. Joy as the new drug. And the audience was hooked. For over two hours the band played, giving their heart and soul to this celebration of life. It was staggering. Finally, they finished, and we went out into the night.

All this to introduce the new album, streaming below. Enjoy.

Hey, I have a story up at Smashwords!

Hey all you beautiful people,

I know what you are saLasVegasCoverBlogying right now. “Drew is being awfully complementary, he must want something.” If that is what you were thinking, shame on you. I don’t want anything from you.

Well, now that you mention it, there is one thing.

I have a short story up at Smashwords.com. It’s called Double Deal. It already has 1 four star review, and Patrick Pillars says:

“Double Deal is a very good story with a protagonist you’re pulling for, right from the beginning. With excellent description and crisp language, the reader is right there, right in the story. I look forward to more titles from Mr. Beatty.”

So that is pretty cool.

Here is the other cool thing. You can buy it for just 99 cents! I mean, 99 cents, less than the cost of a cup of coffee, and you can have Double Deal in a variety of eBook formats. Take it with you on the go. Read it on your phone, computer, laptop, or iPad thingie.

You can buy it here. I hope you like it.

Drew’s Writing Tips!

Recently on Twitter I decided to share some of the valuable and important insights I have discovered while writing two and 1/3 novels. Due to the ephemeral nature of Twitter I feared that some of you might have missed these lessons, so I thought it only prudent that I reprint them here. I hope they will be of some help if you are currently struggling with a writing project.

1. Your lead characters should always start the day with a good breakfast.  Spend at least a couple of pages describing this.

2. Redheads cannot be trusted. If you want to show someone is untrustworthy, give them red hair.

3. When writing sex scenes, you should have between 3 and 5 people. Less is dull, more gets hard to manage.  See also the Weiner corollary.

4. Every building should blow up, or catch fire. Preferably both.

5. Robots always have murder on the brain. Or programmed into them. Whatever, I’m not a scientist.

6. Old ladies that live alone are always scary. Usually they cackle, which helps your audience know just how scary they are.

7. While zombies prefer fresh brains, they will also eat pickled brains on special occasions.

8. Your alien characters should be interested in mating with humans. 3 to 5 at a time.

9. Don’t kill the puppy.

10. Exploding supernovas are a good way to get yourself out of a tricky writing corner.

And  a bonus one that I did not use on Twitter!

If your character are going to use drugs, make sure they get the good stuff. Nobody want to read about people smoking ditchweed.

I hope this has been of some use to you!

In Which I Name Myself “Toronto’s Greatest Podcast Novelist”

I know, that seems bold doesn’t it. Not “one of Toronto’s Podcast Novelists”, or even “A pretty good Podcast Novelist from the Toronto area”. No, Toronto’s greatest Podcast Novelist. Me. Why do I make that claim? The answer is simple. Volume.

Look at that math. I have two Pod Novels out. Other Toronto area writers only have one. Let’s break it down.

Terry Fallis: Yeah, the guy won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, Canada’s biggest literary prize for humorous books, and winning that award on the basis of his self-published book got him a publishing deal, but how many books does he have out: One.

Steve Saylor: Yes, Steve Saylor is huge in the new media field, and always has some new project or another cooking. But how many books does he have out: One.

John Mierau: Yes, his Serving Worlds podcast is very popular. Even Robert J. Saywer blogged about it. But how many books does he have out: One.

James Melzer: Okay, so his book The Zombie Chronicles: Escape hugely popular, and he got a publishing deal with Simon and Schuster. But how many books does he have out: One.

I know, you could point to his “Invasion” as a second book, or his Twists of Fate project with Jenny Hudock , but I am disqualifying them on the basis that they are incomplete works.

Me, I’ve got two books out. TWO BABY!

So, I win.

So, what does this mean for you, the reader? Well, I’m glad you asked that. Now that I am Toronto’s Greatest Podcast Novelist, I am going to take my job a little bit more seriously. I will be adding more content, fiction and non-fiction. I will try to write some reviews, talk about other podnovel works, and try to be a more engaging presence, generally. Also, I will be working harder on my third novel, currently titled “The book that I cannot think of a good title for,” although I am not sure how that scans.

Stay tuned, people, there will be a lot of fun ahead!

Drew.

P.S. If you made it this far and didn’t realize I was joking yet, please realize that I was joking.

kthxbai

P.P.S. Except for the part about making more content and it being more fun. It will be.

Over and out.

Save Pierce!

PireceCommunity is about forging relations, and helping people whenever possible. I have come across an interesting opportunity to help someone, and I thought I would share it with you.

Being a foreign student in Canada is an expensive proposition, but for Pierce Derks it is double frustrating. Is an American who has applied for permanant residency in Canada, a bright committed person who wants to live and work and contribute to Canada. The government is dragging it’s heels processing this, and now Pierce is on the hook for $10,000 in educational fees. He can’t cover this.

His friends have set up a website at SavePierce.org, and they are hoping ordinary people will consider donating $10.00. If you can’t afford $10.00, perhaps you could donate $5.00. Really, any amount, just as long as we can keep great talents like this in Canada!

If you are reading this and you are American, sorry, but we want to keep him!

Further Adventures with White Trash Land

In the fall of 2005, Andrew set out to write a novel and publish it chapter by chapter on his blog. This in spite of the fact, that he was in his first year of teaching, and he and his wife had an infant son. Over the next 6 months, the story of White Trash Land slowly unfolded on whitetrashland.com. After Andrew was finished he felt very satisfied that he had finally written his first novel. Nothing further happened for many months.

Enter one generous and(somewhat crazy) brother-in-law. Sean (aka ductapeguy) had drawn Andrew in our families annual Christmas draw. Being a supporter of Andrew’s writing, and of a geekish bent, Sean embarked to record White Trash Land as an audiobook in time for Christmas. For the theme music, he used a song from Andrew’s former band, Swimming. Andrew was quite surprised when Sean presented him with several CDs containing his audiobook on Christmas Day.

Now, White Trash Land has moved to wordpress.com. Andrew and Sean are making arrangements to publish White Trash Land in podcast form in the near future.

The Whole Novel is Up!

03.05.06

Warts and all. Like I have said, this is still just a draft. I am working on the editing a little bit, while trying to keep up with writing and editing a few stories. But, the rough copy is up, although the ending is the weakest writing, I was rushing to GET IT DONE. Now it’s done, and up. Lemme know what you think!